Telstra launches commercial Gigabit LTE as latest stepping stone to 5G

netgear gigabit lte
Netgear’s Nighthawk M1 Mobile Router (MR1100), the first CAT16 device for Telstra's Gigabit LTE service. (Source: Netgear)

Telstra has launched what is claimed to be the world’s first commercial Gigabit LTE network and device, with the help of tech partners Ericsson, Qualcomm and Netgear, as the operator sets its sights on 5G.

Telstra said at its “Gigabit LTE Experience” event in Sydney that the Gigabit LTE service has launched in select state capital city CBDs (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane), with more to follow. The first compatible CAT16 device for the network, Netgear’s Nighthawk M1 Mobile Router (MR1100), equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon X16 LTE modem, will be made available to consumers in Australia later this month.

“Gigabit LTE” is a marketing name for LTE-Advanced technology capable of gigabit-level downlink speeds, enabled by 4×4 MIMO, 3CA (three-carrier aggregation) and higher order modulation (256QAM). That said, Ericsson’s press release offers the caveat that the network supports a “peak physical layer download speed of ~979Mbps” (so just shy of 1 Gbps, but still reportedly 10x faster than Australia’s NBN),  and that “actual day to day speeds experienced by users depend on network conditions and the user’s application.”

On the uplink, Telstra’s new network capability uses 64QAM and 2CA for a peak upload speed of up to 150 Mbps.

Telstra added that “Gigabit LTE” is not only about high peak speeds but improved and more efficient use of network capacity. For a start, Gigabit LTE mobile devices do what they need to do faster, which frees up more network resources for other users. Also, device support for 4×4 MIMO allows 4-way receive diversity, which supports improved data throughput throughout the entire LTE network, not just the bits that support the gigabit service.

Mike Wright, group MD for networks at Telstra, said these features and capabilities are important steps as the operator evolves its network towards 5G.

“We are well placed to evolve our 4G network and are putting the building blocks in place for Australia to be ready for 5G – this will deliver more bandwidth and lower latencies which are critical for emerging applications such as downloading 4K video, IoT, autonomous vehicles, augmented reality and shared virtual reality,” said Wright.

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